The Trauma of the Real: Or, Unspeakable Acts

unspeakable

In addition to blurring the categories of the usual politics of identification, the Code Pink interruption of McCain’s speech illustrates another capacity of subjects of desire: to generate events. Unlike many of the other direct actions at the Republican Convention, which were quickly dismissed, the Code Pink disruption cause a specific type of rupture that explains why McCain was compelled to continue addressing what he declared to be a non-event – these disruptions caused trauma. As Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis write, psychoanalytic trauma is “an event in the subject’s life defined by its intensity, by the subject’s incapacity to respond adequately to it, and by the upheaval and long-lasting effects that it brings about in the psychical organization.”97 Therefore, it is McCain’s simultaneous dismissal of and inability to move beyond the interruption that constitutes trauma, and it is this trauma that transformed the protests from mere actions into true events. Consider an example that carries considerable historical weigh – Mario Savio’s stirring speech during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement urging others to use their bodies in direct action:

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even tacitly take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears, upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.98

Against the more traditional interpretation of Savio’s prescription, that bodies should be used to physically clog spaces of power, perhaps we should perform a more psychoanalytic reading – that the suasive power of politics can be interrupted by jamming its symbolic machine with bodies that mutter, which frustrate rhetorical attempts to contain the desiring force of bodies through the politics of identification. Moreover, jamming the symbolic machine is not painless, it produces trauma, but it is not the pain of an individual subject but a shared blockage with potentially enormous effects. Continue reading “The Trauma of the Real: Or, Unspeakable Acts”

Failed Rhetoricality: Bodies that Mutter

da-bahdie

Soon before President Bush left office, he had a pair of shoes thrown at him during a press conference on his farewell journey to Iraq. The thrower was Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist upset with the American occupation of his country. In the middle of the press conference, al-Zaidi stood up, yelled, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” and threw a shoe at Bush.62 Before security personnel were able to intervene, al-Zaidi launched another shoe, saying, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.” Showing just how unaffected he was by the whole ordeal, Bush later laughed it off by saying, “If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw,” further shrugging of the protest with the comment, “I don’t know what the guy’s cause was. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.”63 As a strategy of confrontation, al-Zaidi’s shoe-ing follows Voltairine de Cleyre’s classic definition of direct action as one of the “spontaneous retorts of those who feel oppressed by a situation.”64 Moreover, it matches the essential characteristics outlined by direct action advocates, being confrontational, public, disruptive, and illegal.65 Yet it was unable to affect Bush, probably because it was immediately contained by the politics of identification, which raises an important question: can other types of embodied protest disrupt power? Continue reading “Failed Rhetoricality: Bodies that Mutter”

Introduction to Forthcoming Article: Dispute or Disrupt? Desire and Violence in Protests Against the Iraq War

dead-bodies-are-buried-under-the-cherry-trees
Abstract: In “Dispute or Disrupt? Desire and Violence in Protests Against the Iraq War,” xxxx suggests ‘queering’ direct action in order to overcome the limits of rhetorical politics. xxxx shows how the Bush Administration’s justifications for the Iraq War were incoherent discourses that drew rhetorical opposition into a politics of identification that made them easy to dismiss. An alternative, xxxx claims, are “bodies that mutter” – subjects of desire whose bodily force continues where discourses fail, which he locates in the Code Pink disruption of John McCain’s speech at 2008 Republican National Convention, AIDS crisis-era queer activism, and radical clowning. 

The movement against the Iraq War was an exercise in failure. Continue reading “Introduction to Forthcoming Article: Dispute or Disrupt? Desire and Violence in Protests Against the Iraq War”

Ephemera from Iraq War Article

begin-the-warLast week, I turned in an article on the Iraq War. There were some major sections that I cut – they didn’t fit and distracted from the main argument. They’re interesting enough to share, however, so here they are.

(Snippet 1)

While the primary strategy was to oppose the Iraq War through speech, it is sight that has come to dominate how most people experience war. On a basic physiological level, the direct experience of violence – such as shooting bullets that rip into someone’s body and spilling their blood, or cleaning up someone’s splattered guts after the scene – will rountiely overload the mind and result in trauma. Direct experience is not common, however, as most people experience through visual technologies. The twenty-four hour news cycle feeds war to the people by playing stock footage featuring political officials giving press conferences, missiles sailing through the air, and military personnel on the move. The result is that the body gets trained to experience war as if every organ was an eye. War in such a media environment becomes structured by the characteristics of what Lacan calls “the scopic field.” Continue reading “Ephemera from Iraq War Article”

[Audiobook] Daniel W Smith – Deleuze’s Politics: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, and Nomadology in Anti-Oedipus & A Thousand Plateaus (2009)

smith-deleuzeI just uploaded these lectures, which I listened to a couple years ago. They are perhaps the best introduction to the politics of Deleuze and Guattari but is also rewarding for more advanced scholars. I’m sorry for the quality – I tried to clean them up, but they’re not perfect. awc

Also available here.

Daniel W Smith discussed Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s works Anti-Oedipus & A Thousand Plateaus at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum 2009. Smith, a professor of philosophy at Purdue University, is a leading expert of Deleuze and Guattari’s work. In these lectures, he lucidly outlines the theories and implications of the most political sections of Deleuze and Guattari’s work while giving special attention to the primary source materials and philosophical arguments that the authors utilized to make their argument.

Day 1: Anti-Oedipus & Desire
In this talk, Smith discusses Deleuze and Guattari’s ambitious reworking of psychoanalysis, especially with their notions of desire and the unconscious.

Day 2: Anti-Oedipus & The Human (missing part 2)
On this day of talks, Smith describes the anthropology chapter of Anti-Oedipus. In the first lecture, Smith covers the Savage and Despotic formations. Unfortunately, the second lecture, in which Smith described the Capitalism formation, was not recorded.

Day 3: A Thousand Plateaus & Nomadology
On this day, Smith presents Deleuze and Guattari’s nomadology from A Thousand Plateaus, with an eye to their description of society without a state. The second lecture is dedicated to question & answer.

The reading materials for the lectures was
– Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, “Savages, Barbarians, Civilized Men,” 139 – 271 Continuum Version, 141 – 164 Minnesota Version.
– Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, “1227: Treatise on Nomadology–The War Machine,” & “7000 B.C.: Apparatus of Capture,” 387 – 522 Continuum Version, 351- 473 Minnesota Version.

DISCLAIMER:
The original recordings picked up substantial feedback that punctuated the lecture with high-pitched pinging noises that made it nearly unlistenable. I tried to eliminate as much of the feedback as possible, but ended up thinning out Smith’s voice.

I have uploaded the originals as well, but would not suggest trying to listen to them.

Empire & The Grid

grid
Yesterday, Matt asked a wonderful question about my theory of subjection in Empire and its relevance to Massumi’s use of “the grid” in the introduction to Parables For the Virtual.

Let me first preface this by saying that I believe Empire has already overcome the problem of the grid. It’s now just a problem for cultural studies and other disciplines that linger on old models of social analysis. In contrast to Empire, subjection in The Social State is absolutely indicative of a grid-type model of power, as are parts of the Modern State. ***Therefore: struggles against hierarchy and binary exclusion may benefit Empire rather than confront it.***

At the beginning Parables, Massumi claims that most cultural studies uses a social model premised on structural positions (“feminine,” “black,” etc). This is an application of an argument he inherits from Anti-Oedipus, where Deleuze and Guattari develop an elaborate critique of certain Fruedo-Lacanian psychoanalytic models that use a grid. They spare Lacan himself (Guattari was once the heir-apparent to Lacan’s ecole freudienne and remained under analysis even after the publication of AO), but are not so kind to his more dogmatic followers, such as Serge Leclaire.

Continue reading “Empire & The Grid”

how to give lacan the boot

[it really starts to get good at the 6 minute mark…]

Transversality was to replace transferrence. Why the replacement? Transference works by provoking change through coerced dialogue between analyst-patient. The patient, one-on-one, stuck in a room with nothing but the psychiatric gaze and the ambience of the room, has few options outside the give-and-take channeled through “the talking cure.” Compelled speech generates content that the analyst uses to place the patient on a psychoanalytic grid that charts out various structural positions. Is the patient a hysteric? Then the analyst must evacuate the position of the Big Other. The bottom line: the analyst is to induce the patient into clarifying their Subject position so a diagnosis and adequate counter-reaction be applied. The trouble is that this only works for neurotics – meaning slips for psychotics, preventing the analyst who holds meaning to get any traction. Continue reading “how to give lacan the boot”